Thursday, September 1
First, from DHinMI at The Next Hurrah, Do People Realize How Bad This Is?
Yesterday, Bob Kur informed me that the President does, indeed, know how bad things are. After watching Bush's Rose Garden PR effort this afternoon, I respectfully suggest Bob Kur find a line of work that fits him better. Air Force One flew over the devastation in three states. Bush's speech flew over the problem, with a laundry list of what we'd mobilized that would have sounded inadequate on its face, even without knowing that hundreds of thousands of people have received almost nothing in the way of help for 72 hours now.
[By the way, just whose idea was it for him to read the speech from the Rose Garden? Are they saving the Oval Office for when he announces the people of New Orleans have 24 hours to surrender? And why didn't he bring his new guitar? Man, when I get a new guitar I don't set it down for a week.]
It's impossible to separate this from politics and from the effect our politics has had on the culture. Twenty-five years ago, Americans nostalgic for their post-WWII hegemony, worn out from a decade of bad economic performance, and tired of having their noses tweaked by oil-rich countries in the Middle East elected a man who promised Morning in America once more, and who proceeded to widen the gap between rich and poor, subjugate civic responsibility to unfettered libertarian self-aggrandizement, and put up the worst job creation numbers of any Postwar president, until the Bush family dropped him to #3. Wave the flag and hate the government. Expound the value of faith and hate your neighbor.
No, that's not blaming Reagan and it's not blaming BushitlerCo, or however the partisans of the right want to characterize it. It's saying that our politics are deceitful, and they've grown ever more deceitful over the last quarter century, and we know it. We know that Iran/Contra was a criminal violation of the law at the highest levels of the executive branch, and we know it was vigorously defended for partisan reasons, not for principle. We know that Whitewater was long settled before Republicans in Congress decided to investigate it in perpetuity. We know the current administration at its very inception lied, baldly and childishly, about White House vandalism. We know this administration was asleep at the switch before 9/11. We know it fudged intelligence before undertaking a offensive war for political purposes. We know Judith Miller and the Times helped. We know why Judith Wilson was outed and why we talk about World War IV but refuse to draft anyone to fight it. We know George W. Bush is not up to the job and that he plays cowboy for the cameras on a phony backdrop of a ranch. We pretend to believe that protecting everyone's religious freedom somehow impinges on a monolithic Christian majority. We pretend Intelligent Design is science.
Over and over, large matters and small. The Iraq war, that cakewalk which was a matter of weeks or possibly months, where our biggest problem was supposed to be fighting off the adoring throngs, slogs into its thirtieth month of turning corners and hiding all the good news. We know it. We know we were acting out a fantasy, a view of the world that proclaims itself sharp-eyed realism when it owes most everything to Grade-B action flicks. This exceptional America can get reporters from five news networks onto a highway overpass in New Orleans where old people, mothers, infants sit in the broiling sun, but we can't get them any water or medical care. That's a bigger wasteland than most of Mississippi is tonight.